Jimmy Morales

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Jimmy Morales
President Trump and the First Lady Welcome the President and First Lady of Guatemala (49238996191) (cropped).jpg
50th President of Guatemala
In office
14 January 2016 – 14 January 2020
Vice PresidentJafeth Cabrera
Preceded byOtto Pérez Molina
Succeeded byAlejandro Giammattei
2nd Secretary-General of the National Convergence Front
In office
10 March 2013 – 11 January 2016
DeputyÉdgar Ovalle Maldonado
Preceded byJosé Luis Quilo
Succeeded byÉdgar Ovalle Maldonado (acting)
Personal details
James Ernesto Morales Cabrera

(1969-03-18) 18 March 1969 (age 53)
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Political partyNational Convergence Front
(m. 1989)
Alma materUniversity of San Carlos of Guatemala
WebsiteOfficial website[dead link]

Jimmy Morales (born James Ernesto Morales Cabrera, locally [ɟʝejms eɾˈnesto moˈɾales kaˈβɾeɾa] (listen); 18 March 1969) is a Guatemalan politician, actor and comedian. From 2016 to 2020, he served as the 50th president of Guatemala.

Early and personal life[edit]

Morales was born in Guatemala City, to José Everardo Morales Orellana and Celita Ernestina Cabrera Acevedo.[1] He comes from a circus family, and is an Evangelical Christian.[2][3] His father was killed in a car accident when he was three years old, prompting him, his mother and three siblings to move to his grandparents' house, where he grew up.[4] By the time he was 10 years old, he and his brother Sammy accompanied their grandfather to sell bananas and used clothing at the market in Santa Lucia Milpas Altas.[5][6]

He holds degrees in Business Administration from the national Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, and in Theology.[3] Morales also holds a master's degree in Strategic Studies with specialization in Security and Defense from Mariano Gálvez University. He furthered his studies in Strategic Studies at Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala.[1]

Morales rose to fame as a TV comedian, starring in the series Moralejas ("Morals") alongside his brother Sammy.[7] He formally changed his name from James Ernesto Morales Cabrera to Jimmy Morales by deed poll in 2011.[8]

Morales has been married for three decades to Patricia Marroquín, and has three children.[9][10]

Political career[edit]

In 2011, he ran as a mayoral candidate in Mixco in the Guatemala City suburbs for the small right-wing Action for National Development party. He placed third.[9][11]

In 2013, Morales joined the small National Convergence Front (FCN/Nation) and became its Secretary-General.


Presidential campaign[edit]

In 2015, Morales was nominated as the FCN's presidential candidate. His priorities were fighting corruption, and dealing with chronic malnutrition, low education levels, and insecurity.[6] His slogan was "Neither corrupt, nor a thief" (Ni corrupto, ni ladrón).[2][3] He ran on a platform of conservative values, and against corruption.[3] He identifies as a nationalist, supports the death penalty, opposes abortion and legalized drugs, and denies that a genocide against the Ixil Maya took place.[12][13][7]

He was initially considered an outsider but surprisingly led the field in the first round of the election, qualifying for a runoff alongside former First Lady Sandra Torres.[2] Morales' success came after both former vice president Roxana Baldetti and outgoing president Otto Pérez Molina had to step down, and were arrested on fraud and corruption charges (the La Línea corruption case).[2]


Morales with Donald Trump at White House in 2019.

In the runoff, Morales defeated Torres in a landslide, taking 67.4 percent of the vote.[14] Morales' success was viewed as a sign of the distrust of many Guatemalans towards the traditional political elite that ruled the country for decades. Voter anger and military support helped him win the presidency against more experienced politicians who voters felt were tainted by a corrupt political system.[2][3]

Morales with President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto.

On 24 December 2017, Morales announced that he planned to move the Guatemalan embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He became the second national leader to announce a decision to make such a move, after the President of the United States, Donald Trump, made a similar announcement on 6 December.[15]

Morales with President of Israel Reuven Rivlin.

On 18 June 2018, the Morales government was widely criticized for its slow action in favor of Guatemalans affected by the American policy of separating immigrant families; this caused the dismissal of the presidential spokesman Heinz Heimann who a day before his removal from the office said that the government respected the policy of President Trump.[16]


Arrest of relatives[edit]

In January 2017, Morales' older brother and close adviser Samuel "Sammy" Morales, as well as one of Morales' sons, José Manuel Morales, were arrested on corruption and money laundering charges.[17][18] According to media reports, the arrests prompted several large protests of up to 15,000 people demanding for President Morales' removal. The most recent took place in September 2017. Morales refused to step down.[19][20][21][22]

CICIG and illegal donations[edit]

In August 2017, Morales ordered the expulsion of Colombian Iván Velásquez, commissioner of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), after it began "investigating claims that his party took illegal donations, including from drug-traffickers" and asked, "congress to strip him of immunity from prosecution."[23][24] The Constitutional Court of Guatemala blocked the move.[24] Minister of foreign affairs Carlos Raúl Morales had refused to sign the executive order and was removed from office along with vice-minister Carlos Ramiro Martínez, and vice-minister Anamaría Diéguez resigned.[25][26][27] Velásquez confirmed he will continue as CICIG commissioner following the Constitutional Court decision to block his expulsion.[24] In September 2017, the Congress of Guatemala refused to strip Morales of his immunity, rejecting commissioner Velásquez's suggestion.[28]

Responsibility bonus[edit]

In September 2017, it was revealed that the Ministry of Defense, headed by Williams Mansilla, had been paying President Morales a $7,300 per month bonus since December 2016, in addition to his regular salary.[29] The payments from the defense ministry were referred to as a "Bonus for Extraordinary Responsibility."[29] Mansilla resigned from office soon after the payments were revealed to the public.[29] He was later arrested and charged with corruption in January 2018, relating to the special bonus to Morales.[29] President Morales denied the bonuses were illegal, but did return approximately $60,000 to the government.[29]


The acquisition by the government of services and luxury items for the president using public monies caused controversy, although he indicated not being personally involved in those expenses.[30]

Sexual abuse accusations[edit]

A former cabinet minister accused Jimmy Morales of having sexually abused young female public workers with the complicity of other government officials.[31]

Belize mobilization[edit]

Guatemalan Defense Minister Williams Mansilla confirmed on 22 April 2016 that the deployment of 3,000 soldiers to the Guatemalan border with Belize, after a shooting incident on Belizean territory with army weapons resulted in the death of a 13-year-old boy and the wounding of his 11-year-old brother, as well as their 48-year-old father.[32]

Calls for prosecution[edit]

On 14 January 2020, Guatemalan civil society groups began pressuring Guatemalan authorities to arrest President Jimmy Morales for corruption after he left office.[33] However, Morales would regain immunity from prosecution after it was agreed that other officials who served in his administration would be stripped of immunity from prosecution.[34] Eight of his allies,[34] including some who were not in his administration, were charged with corruption, including two former FCN legislators and 2019 FCN presidential candidate Estuardo Galdámez.[34][35]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Contreras, Geovanni (18 March 2016). "Jimmy Morales está de cumpleaños. ¿Qué le regalaría?" (in Spanish). Pensa Libre.
  2. ^ a b c d e Juan Montes (7 September 2015). "Comedian Jimmy Morales Leads Guatemalan Election". The Wall Street Journal.
  3. ^ a b c d e José Elías (7 September 2015). "Jimmy Morales, el candidato sorpresa". El País.
  4. ^ Lemos, Eirini (15 January 2016). "Jimmy Morales: Guatemala's clown who went on to become president". The Telegraph.
  5. ^ "Jimmy Morales: Guatemala's clown who went on to become president," Telegraph.
  6. ^ a b "Jimmy Morales used to do blackface comedy. He’s now poised to be Guatemala’s president," The Washington Post.
  7. ^ a b Louisa Reynolds (10 June 2015). "In Guatemala, anti-establishment presidential candidate benefits from corruption scandals". The Tico Times.
  8. ^ La Hora. "ISSUU – Edicion Impresa – Viernes 1 Abril 2011 by La Hora". Issuu. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  9. ^ a b Henry Morales (4 September 2015). "Jimmy Morales, el comediante que quiere ser un presidente serio". Prensa Libre.
  10. ^ "Comedian takes office as Guatemala's new president". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  11. ^ "Have a laugh at Guatemala's new president - Macleans.ca". 29 October 2015. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  12. ^ "Jimmy Morales, Comedian Candidate to Guatemalan Presidency". Prensa Latina English. 2 September 2015.
  13. ^ "Guatemala just elected a comedian with zero political experience to be president", Vox.
  14. ^ Official results
  15. ^ Clara Lopez and Joe Sterling. "Guatemala to move embassy to Jerusalem, president says". CNN. Retrieved 25 December 2017.
  16. ^ William Oliva. "Después de presiones y críticas, el Gobierno rechaza la separación de familias migrantes". Prensa Libre (in Spanish). Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  17. ^ "Guatemala president's brother, son held on suspicion of fraud". Reuters. 19 January 2017. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  18. ^ "Samuel Morales irá a juicio por lavado de dinero". Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  19. ^ Malkin, Elisabeth (15 September 2017). "Protests Erupt in Guatemala Over Laws to Dilute Antigraft Campaign (Published 2017)". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  20. ^ "Crisis flares in Guatemala over corruption and organised crime". the Guardian. 27 August 2017. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  21. ^ "Thousands of protesters in Guatemala demand president's resignation". Reuters. 7 March 2017. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  22. ^ "Anti-president protests during Guatemala independence day". AFP. 15 September 2017. Retrieved 12 October 2021 – via Yahoo.
  23. ^ "Jimmy Morales's war on Guatemala's graft-busters". The Economist. 31 August 2017.
  24. ^ a b c "Guatemala’s president tried to expel the U.N. commissioner who announced he was under investigation" - The Washington Post
  25. ^ "El presidente de Guatemala destituye a su canciller y al vicecanciller - ELESPECTADOR.COM". 27 August 2017. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  26. ^ "Guatemala ordena expulsar al colombiano Iván Velásquez, jefe anticorrupción". 27 August 2017. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  27. ^ "Jimmy ratifica decisión de nombrar non grato a Iván Velásquez". Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  28. ^ "Guatemala parliament votes to keep immunity for President Jimmy Morales - News - DW - 12.09.2017". DW.COM. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  29. ^ a b c d e "Former Guatemala defense minister arrested on corruption charges". Reuters News. 26 January 2018. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  30. ^ "Ropa, lentes de sol y masajes: la polémica lista de artículos personales de lujo que el presidente de Guatemala, Jimmy Morales, rechaza pagar de su sueldo". BBC. 24 January 2018. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  31. ^ Orozco, Andrea (4 July 2018). "Víctimas de abusos cometidos por Jimmy Morales podrían ser 10, denuncia excanciller". Prensa Libre. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  32. ^ "Guatemala despliega 3.000 soldados en la frontera con Belice", El País, 22 Abril 2016 (accessed 22 April 2016)
  33. ^ Cuffe, Sandra. "Guatemalans demand arrest of outgoing president for corruption". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  34. ^ a b c Cuffe, Sandra. "Guatemalan officials arrested for corruption after leaving office". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  35. ^ Menchu, Sofia (15 January 2020). "Arrest warrants for Guatemalan ex-presidential candidate as immunity lapses". Reuters. Retrieved 11 February 2021 – via www.reuters.com.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by President of Guatemala
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ricardo Sagastume
2011, declined
National Convergence Front nominee for
President of Guatemala

Succeeded by
Estuardo Galdámez
Preceded by
José Luis Quilo
Secretary-General of the
National Convergence Front

Succeeded by
Édgar Ovalle